The Eagles have a decision to make when it comes to Jason Avant, and will need to make it fairly soon.
Avant has become a fixture in Philadelphia. Selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, he has spent the last eight seasons with the Eagles, surviving some lean years and a coaching transition. Only Todd Herremans and Trent Cole have been with the team longer.
Avant proved valuable to Chip Kelly in his first year. He deserves part of the credit for guiding the Eagles past the Riley Cooper situation, and helped set the right tone in the locker room with his work ethic and approach to the game. On the field, his stats dipped. While several of his teammates enjoyed career years, the 30-year-old had 38 receptions (he was targeted 76 times) for 447 yards. Those are his lowest numbers since 2008. He made strong contributions to the running game with his blocking, but his involvement in the passing game left something to be desired.
The Eagles will have to weigh all of that as they decide how to proceed. Complicating matters is that the veteran wideout is scheduled to receive a $1 million roster bonus, which kicks in the fifth day of the league year (March 15). They will need to either release Avant or restructure his deal before then to avoid incurring that cost.
The day after the loss to the Saints, Avant said that he had yet to speak with Howie Roseman about his future.
“If they deem it important, they’ll reach out. At the same time, they don’t owe me anything. I’ve been here, playing as hard as I can, and that’s all I can ask from them,” said Avant, who has a base salary of $2.25 million in 2014. “I’m an employee, so that’s one of those things that if I am — how can I say it — valued, that will be something they will reach out and do. But at the same time, if they don’t, I’m appreciative for my time. And to all the Eagles fans, I had a ball here no matter what the outcome is.”
The receiver position overall is up in the air. Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both free agents. It is yet to be seen who will be lining up opposite DeSean Jackson, who is hoping a little more guaranteed money comes his way this offseason. With Avant’s roster bonus set to kick in early in the league year, the Eagles don’t have the luxury of sitting back and seeing how free agency plays out before making a call on the vet.
Despite the statisticall dropoff this season, Avant believes he has plenty of football left.
“I can play a while. I know they say I’m 30 years old but I don’t have the nightlife, so that will preserve me a long time in itself,” he said with a smile. “It’s all about your upkeep and how you work out and how dedicated you are. I know there is no one in this league that is going to outwork me in the offseason.”
His commitment to the game is undeniable. It’s hard to recall a day when Avant didn’t stay after practice to catch balls out of the JUGS machine. (Avant has arguably the best hands on the team, so that work has seemingly paid off.) He does not possess high-end speed, however, and the Eagles are missing that big-play element from the slot position.
Avant was asked if he’d like to see the same group back together for another shot at it in 2014.
“There are contract issues, there are so many different moving parts. You want everyone to come back but it’s just not the truth,” he said. “That’s just the National Football League.”